Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak expanded on Friday the call-up of reserve soldiers, a spokesman said, as Israel pushed ahead with a major offensive against terrorists in Gaza.
“The defense minister has this evening ordered the mobilization of new reserve forces,” Josh Hantman told AFP shortly after two rockets fired from Gaza hit an open field in Gush Etzion, near Jerusalem, and another landed in the sea by central Tel Aviv.
The rockets that reached Tel Aviv were the first missiles to hit the city since the 1991 Gulf War. Similarly, the air raid siren that was sounded in Jerusalem and the surrounding area late Friday afternoon marked the first time since the Hamas terror organization took over Gaza that such an attack was aimed at Israel’s capital city.
Hamas immediately took credit for the attack, claiming to have shot “an improved Kassam. The Iranian-made Fajr 5 rocket fired at Tel Aviv by Palestinian militants has a far greater range than the home-made Qassam rockets used by Hamas in Gaza, but neither are very accurate, experts say.
Fajr 5 rockets can be fired from the back of a 6×6 truck and can hit targets up to 75 kilometres (46 miles) away, according to London-based defense analysts IHS Jane’s. This compares to a range of between four and 13 kilometres for the Qassam rockets normally used by Hamas, added Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
A senior source in the Islamic Jihad’s military wing threatened Friday that if Israel launched a ground offensive in Gaza, the terrorist organization will launch missiles toward cities north of Tel Aviv.
As the rockets hit, the first of 16,000 reservists already called up by the Israeli army were joining their units. An AFP correspondent on the Israeli side of the Gaza border reported seeing tanks massed along the border, and a steady stream of reservists arriving for duty.
As ground troops massed, there was no let up in the Israeli air offensive on Gaza.
The Israeli Air Force Friday attempted the assassination of a top Hamas commander. Sources in Gaza reported that the Israel Air Force struck the home of Mohammed Abu Shamala, commander of the southern arm of Hamas’ military wing. According to reports, the house was completely destroyed, yet it is unclear whether or not Shamala was hurt.